This is an exchange with a fellow priest, one who has admitted to me that he too had been molested. My proposed News Journal article is the jumping off point.
Subject: Re: The attitudes we have to deal with.
Date: Sun, 1 Aug 2010 17:15:57 -0400
thank you for sharing. While I understand what you are trying to say, I really wish you would give some more thoughts to your own words before you may take it too far.
My words are trying to get something done. Being silent doesn’t work and being subtle is just as bad. We should all be in an uproar about this, everyone who claims to be a Christian. To tell a priest that this subject doesn’t fit the gospels is flabbergasting. This issue can’t be taken to far and I won’t be silenced no matter what. The thing that puzzles me the most is why every priest and every Catholic parishioner is not demanding that this error/sin/mistake be rectified. And just a reminder, we don’t work for the parishioners we work for God. Our job is to not only get ourselves to heaven but also to help them get to heaven. Attitudes expressed by actual living, breathing parishioners is scary. What have they been doing at mass for the last 30, 40, 50 years, or longer? Obviously not paying attention to the prayers, scriptures or even lyrics to the hymns that we sing. But I suppose it is o.k. for them to be ignorant because they are large donors. Of course they donate for the wrong reasons trying to gain undo influence.
What are you doing about this issue? Have you preached on it? Mentioned an avenue for healing such as Grief to Grace, www.grieftograce.org What? What have you done? Nobody talking about it means nothing gets done and the answer isn’t million dollar settlements. The answer is outreach to the people who have been hurt. It is amazing to me that we call ourselves the Body of Christ and yet still think we are individuals and the pain, hurt, shattering of other members of the body doesn’t effect us. It makes me wonder how much do we really believe, all of us not just the ignorant ones in the pews that I dealt with on Sunday. (Just an F.Y.I. more people were positive and wonder why the Church has done so little.)
What am I supposed to do? Tell me. Help me. Because quite frankly I’m getting a little tired of being the only one trying to deal with this issue when EVERYONE should be dealing with this issue. I can really see Luther’s frustration with the Church but I would never leave. How can I take it too far? I can’t be silenced. Trying to silence me or anyone and everyone trying to rectify this unjust situation would be immoral. It would not only be immoral it would be slimy if that someone was in the Church and tried to silence us. This isn’t Nazi Germany so blind obedience doesn’t exist.
Tell me what you would do. I’m open to all suggestions except silence and/or doing nothing.
Subject: Re: The attitudes we have to deal with.
Date: Mon, 2 Aug 2010 09:35:26 -0400
thank you for your email. Don’t get me wrong: I am impressed and inspired about your passion for those who have been hurt. My words are simply those of caution: it happens that we may take an issue that is close to us – whatever that may be — and make it the only issue. We as priests must keep our eyesight as wide as possible. Considering only one issue as the way of living the Gospel may be acceptable as long as we do not discard any other (which are contained in the gospel also).Remember that our primary responsibility it to love. 1 Cor 13 tells us that even if we espoused the most noble of causes but we have no love then what we do means nothing. Only love fulfills the law. And, as you know, there is no greater love than to give one’s life for a friend. And love is given to all!We can all come up with issues in the church, issues that point out our shortcomings and failures. See what we do with the hungry, homeless, etc. Think: if we were to give all to those whom we wrong sexually, who would feed the hungry and house the homeless? Are their causes less valuable than yours?In love and out of love we are called to be stewards of God’s many graces.I will be glad to tell you what I am doing for this situation or any other situations but certainly not via email.My suggestion to you? “Love, and do what you want.” (you can’t beat that one… 🙂 )Let’s keep each other in prayer so that together we may continue our journey and grow rich in what matters to GodOn Aug 2, 2010, at 9:49 AM,You say, “Are their causes less valuable than yours?” I say YES! The members of the Body of Christ who have been driven away and in many cases now hate the Church and even worse hate God because of what was done to them and because of how they have been treated is the Church’s shame and sin. Comparing random issues like homelessness to the Church caused scandal of sexual abuse is like comparing apples to automobiles. The Church needs to fix what the Church herself has broken. All I do for this issue and all I say about this issue is out of love. That’s probably why my frustration runs so high. The desire for justice for those injured by the men of the Church who represent God is gospel love.
Subject: Re: The attitudes we have to deal with.
Date: Mon, 2 Aug 2010 20:49:10 -0400
i am confused by your answer.knowing that i respect you, John.. i have to tell you that when I read your writings I do not feel love coming through. There is something else there.But again… who am I?
The love I have for the Church and the love I have for the Body of Christ is deep and real. The frustration I have, and that’s what it is frustration, is that this issue has been caused by the hierarchy in the Church maybe not current hierarchy but hierarchy none the less. Abuse of any kind is soul shattering. And I am aware that it’s more dangerous to be in a family because that is where the majority of abuse happens, (but that’s another issue). When this whole mess first hit the papers back in 2003 dioceses everywhere blamed the media for “sensationalized” the issue. That was a red herring. Then dioceses everywhere shifted to blaming the lawyers involved. Another red herring. The result on the average person in the pew was/is not compassion and love for their fellow members of the Body of Christ but because of these constant attacks by the Church they have resentment and anger for victims. That is the opposite of what they should have.
My frustration comes from the fact that this issue is even an issue. Cases of sexual abuse and impropriety should have been handled as they happened. They did not. Not only that but they treated members of the Church who brought forth allegations badly. They were not heard thus they retained lawyers and all of a sudden they were heard. It is then that the public attacks started on victims. This whole issue was caused by the fact that the men in power not only did nothing but covered up the problem and then publicly attacked the victims. With other social problems, problems not caused by the Church the Church is on the forefront of helping. Look at all we do to feed the hungry, defend life, help the poor and homeless with services. The laity is an intricate part of that effort, collecting food and clothes, running soup kitchens, forming pro-life groups and activities. But what is being done for victims? Million dollar settlements are not the answer because they are unfocused. There needs to be a focus and that needs to be healing. Philadelphia pays for my therapy. They never offered, I had to ask. That is unconscionable.
When I took my leave of absence I had spiritual direction once a week. I also had therapy once a week. I needed that but again I had to ask for it. My frustration would be lessened if both the clergy, hierarchy and parishioners would understand that aspect of this mess and not keep attacking, (clergy and parishioners), victims and if the hierarchy tried to do more and not just throw money at the problem. People are shattered when they suffer any type of abuse and they need compassion and love. I am not getting a sense of that from anyone but the people attempting to help. ( www.grieftograce.org to name one.)
It is evil to be silent about this. To have someone ask or tell you to stop talking about this issue is immoral. A parishioner warned that I will not be liked if I keep talking about this and the need for it to be addressed properly by the hierarchy. My answer to that is so what. I’m not in the priesthood to be liked. I’m in it to help people to see the truth. If they are unhappy with the truth then they need to take it up with God. It is out of love that I’m doing what I’m doing. St. Paul wasn’t afraid to correct people in the Church because he had the knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ. I too have that so I too will not be afraid. If we are silent nothing positive is going to happen. Did silence work to defeat Nazi Germany? Did silence end slavery? Did silence help in the fight for civil rights? No, silence was not part of the strategy. Passive and active resistance is not silent. Apathy is silent. Love dictates that we do more for victims of clergy sexual abuse, more than throw money at the problem.
And we must be on guard because groups like SNAP have an agenda not consistent with love and their antics do nothing for victims but muddy the water.
Because of my unique position as a member of the clergy and as a victim I can see very clearly what should be done and what isn’t being done. If I had not undergone intense therapy, spiritual direction and Grief to Grace retreat then my anger that nothing, or not enough is being done, would be impotent. But my anger over the lack of meaningful action to help others who have been shattered is potent just like St. Paul’s and Christ’s